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What a criminal conviction means for your auto insurance rate

Aug. 19, 2022
5 mins
A woman waits for a police officer to give her a breathalyzer test

If you think a speeding ticket raises the cost of your auto insurance premium significantly, wait until you see the impact of a driving-related criminal conviction.

While going slightly over the speed limit will have garner you a ticket, driving more than 50 kilometres above the posted limit is a serious infraction that could lead to additional criminal changes, including careless driving and street racing. These are considered criminal driving convictions in Ontario and will dramatically change what you pay for auto insurance.

Criminal convictions are as ominous as they sound, and as a driver you should understand which driving behaviours fall under that category – not just for insurance purposes but for your own safety and those around you.

Understanding criminal driving convictions

There are three categories of driving convictions in Ontario. The vast majority of those incurred aren’t criminal. Most drivers are guilty of minor convictions at some point in their lives. They include everything from failing to signal or failing to give way to a pedestrian and not stopping at a stop sign or making unsafe or illegal turns. Speeding tickets are the most common convictions and will affect your insurance rates.

Avoiding major convictions also involves common sense. These range from distracted driving or not stopping for an emergency vehicle to speeding in a school zone or passing a stopped school bus. What all major convictions have in common is that they're designed to protect vulnerable road users, especially children.

How a criminal conviction impacts your driving and insurance records

Both minor and major convictions are infractions that you can be ticketed for, and their impact on your auto insurance varies, as do the demerit points incurred. It goes without saying that you should avoid criminal convictions at all costs. They will most certainly have serious impact on your insurance rates at renewal time. Your provider may even decide that you’re too much of a risk and cancel your policy, forcing you to find coverage elsewhere. If your only option is a high-risk insurance provider, that will mean a higher rate.

A criminal conviction is a serious offence with serious consequences – for you, others, and your insurance rate. This could include careless or dangerous driving, racing and stunt driving, failing or refusing a breathalyzer test, disobeying a police officer, fleeing the scene of an accident, and vehicular manslaughter.

The latter is the most dramatic example of how driving behaviour that merits a criminal conviction has serious impact on people other than the driver at fault. Criminal convictions have bigger repercussions than just auto insurance hikes, and both will be with you for years to come. Stunt driving is an excellent example, as new rules and penalties were introduced in Ontario in July 2021 as part of the Moving Ontarians More Safely (MOMS) Act.

Drivers caught stunt driving or racing now face a 30-day licence suspension and a 14-day vehicle impoundment. They also face a minimum face of $2,000 fine and could be as high as $10,000. A criminal conviction for stunt driving or racing will also cost six demerit points. When it comes to auto insurance, a stunt driving conviction will place you in the high-risk auto insurance category, immediately increasing your auto insurance costs and possibly cause problems when it comes time to renew.

How much more will you pay for insurance after a criminal conviction?

Other examples of criminal convictions that will seriously impact how much you pay for auto insurance include careless driving and driving with blood alcohol over the legal limit.

To get an understanding of how much one of these convictions could impact what you pay for car insurance, we turned to the RATESDOTCA auto insurance quoter. For a 35-year-old male living in Toronto with a clean driving record, collision and comprehensive coverage for one vehicle could jump by 221% — from $2,592 to $8,313 per year — should he be found guilty of one instance of careless driving, undue care or attention. The same driver found with their blood alcohol level above the legal limit will see the same increase in his insurance premium.

Rate hikes get worse if either scenario also leads to a one-year licence suspension. The same driver can expect his auto insurance premium to increase by 336%, to $11,294 per year.

Keep in mind, however, that not all insurance companies will even insure you with these convictions on your record. And those that do will heavily surcharge your policy.

It’s also possible that drivers with these convictions could wind up with facility insurance as their only option. Facility insurance is a last-resort option for high-risk drivers. It costs significantly more than being insured with a traditional provider.

The higher insurance costs that come with a criminal conviction can affect your rate for years to come, which is why it’s important to understand the three categories of driving convictions, what the consequences are, and how much it affects your auto insurance. If you have any sort of driving conviction and your insurance is up for renewal, your premium will be inflated. By comparing car insurance rates online, you will at least get the lowest rate available to high-risk drivers.

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Gary Hilson

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has produced thousands of words for print and pixel about business and technology for a variety of publications and corporate clients. When he’s not tapping on the keyboard, Gary collects comic books, attends live theater, constructs Lego, and buys books he always intends to read.

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